By Carol McCracken (Post # 1 ,461)
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a gun shot to the head two years ago, came to Portland today to thank Maine’s two US Senators – King and Collins – for their recent bipartisan Senate vote supporting expanded background checks on gun purchases. The Senate bill fell slightly short of the number needed for passage. Mark Kelly, former astronaut and Navy pilot, stood at her side, except for when he was addressing the crowd who gave the couple repeated standing ovations throughout the 45-minute city hall press conference.
Almost two years ago, Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents. Six people died and a number of others were wounded. Mentally ill Jared Lee Loughner was the shooter. The legislation the couple supports would have required background checks that would have prevented Loughner from purchasing a gun as he was able to do.
Kelly said this was the first time he’d been in Maine. “We weren’t looking for this experience, but mass shootings happen at lot we learned.” Our goals are to level the playing field and extend background checks, Kelly said. He urged Congress to do what the people want. Ninety percent of the population suppots background checks. “Ninety percent of our people support free money and ice cream, so this should be easy to pass,” joked Kelly.
The solemness of the occasion was accentuated by the intentional absence of politicians and the presence of relatives in the State of Maine Room who have lost children in shootings across the country. Several parents who lost childen in the Newtown, CT. and whose faces become familiar to those who watched national coverage in Washington, D.C. spoke. Mark Barton said that no adult should feel the pain from having a child ripped from them. Nicole Huckley, whose six year old son, Dillon was shot at Sandy Hook said that “if our politicians were like Senators Collins and King, we would not have to be here. Fewer hearts would be broken.”
Winner of a contest sponsored by Americans for Responsible Solutions was Regina Kaut. She entered the contest within the last month and was told on Wednesday that she was a winner. Her eleven year old niece Brittheny Varner, was a victim in the Jonesboro, Arkansas mass shooting in 1998. Two boys shot four girls and a teacher. Since then Kaut has been actively involved both locally and in Washington, D.C. lobbying for better gun control legislation. “The NRA is a very effective organization in getting their way. That’s why it’s so important to have this orgaization to compete with them,” Kaut said. “I’ve never won anything in my life before,” said Kaut grinning. Many in the audience appeared to have an affiliation with a gun control orgaization who issued invitations. With Kaut was Charles Holley, also of Jonesboro. (See top photo)
“We must never stop fighting. Be Bold, Be Courageous,” Giffords instructed the audience haltingly. Another standing ovation for her courage.
Following the city hall press conference, the Special Guests had dinner at DiMillo’s Restaurant on the Waterfront at 5:30 pm.